Ultra Thin Camera Lens less Camera Upcoming Futures Camera

Caltech engineers have developed an ultra thin camera that can finally work without lenses. Lenses, which have often been a necessity in traditional cameras, help to focus light in capturing an image. The need for the optical lenses made it impossible to make traditional cameras truly flat.  The new ultra-thin camera design developed by Caltech engineers replaces the lenses with an ultra-thin optical phased array (OPA). The OPA computationally takes over the role of the lenses by manipulating the incoming light in capturing an image. Therefore, the newly developed ultra-thin camera can switch promptly from a fish-eye to a telephoto lens, obliterating the need to instill a real lens in it.

The lenses on digital cameras use a curve to interrupt the straight path of incoming light bending and focusing it onto an image sensor. Unlike the lenses, the OPA installed on the new ultra thin camera has an array of light receivers, each with the ability to add a tightly controlled phase shift to the light received, enhancing the ultra-thin camera‘s capability of selectively looking in different directions and focusing on various things. Essentially, the engineers use femtosecond quadrillionth of a second precision to control timing in the ultra-thin camera making it concentrate on a particular direction and at a tiny part of the picture in front, at any time.

The engineers have helped reduce the digital cameras thickness and cost by creating one thin layer of integrated silicon photonics that emulates the digital camera’s lens and sensor. The layer, installed on the new ultra-thin camera, can mimic a regular lens and at the same time instantly switch from a fish-eye to a telephoto lens with an adjustment on its light reception. The optical phased array, which is the basis for the new ultra thin camera applies the reverse principle of a phased array used in wireless communication. Unlike a phased array, which creates a beam of signal that can be steered in different directions by staggering the timings of transmissions made across it, light waves received across the OPA cancel each other in all directions except one, on which waves amplify each other to create an electronically controlled gaze.